The Inspiration For Dickens the Dog

May 27, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Pets

by Kathy Manos Penn

Kings River Life recently reviewed Bells, Tails & Murder by Kathy. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Bells, Tails & Murder, and links to purchase both books in the series.

In my Dickens & Christie cozy mystery series, Leta Parker owns a Great Pyrenees named Dickens, but not just any Pyr. Hers is a dwarf; they do exist, just not in great numbers. You can’t go out and find one at a pet store or get one from a breeder. They’re anomalies.

Because my dog Banjo is part Pyr, I’ve grown to love the breed’s temperament, and I’ve learned a lot about their traits. Banjo may weigh only 70 pounds and have a black coat instead of a white one, but his personality is pure Pyr. As I thought about my books, I knew I wanted a dog and a cat as sidekicks for my character, and I thought, “Why not a Great Pyrenees?” That way, I could use Banjo as the model for the fictional dog’s shenanigans.

Kathy Manos Penn and Banjo

The answer to that question is: they’re just too darned big. My books are set in the Cotswolds, and I wanted Leta, the protagonist, to be able to take her dog everywhere she went by train or by car. At 140 pounds, a full-sized Great Pyrenees seemed a bit too much to handle. What about a mini-GP? I thought. And that’s how I discovered there’s no such thing. There are miniature poodles and mini-doodles, but no mini-Pyrs. I did, however, stumble across the existence of dwarf Great Pyrenees.

Breeders don’t set out to breed smaller Great Pyrenees, but occasionally a dwarf Pyr is born from a normal set of parents. In years past, these smaller dogs were hidden or culled.

Everything I read about these smaller versions of the majestic breed made me smile. They range in size from 13” to 18” at the shoulder and can weigh 35 to 50 pounds. Some of the dwarfs have hearing problems or are completely deaf. I had to laugh at one owner who said he wasn’t sure whether his little one was hard of hearing or simply had the breed’s tendency toward selective hearing. Banjo has that tendency in spades, and he’s only part Pyr.

As you might expect, they can also have skeletal and/or joint issues, but then so do many Labs, Goldens, and other large breeds. I’ve read everything I can find about these small dogs, but I don’t pretend to understand the science behind the study underway to determine the cause of dwarfism in Pyrs. I’ve been more interested in the unbelievably cute photos I’ve found on Facebook.

I corresponded with one or two owners on Facebook and was able to get permission to use a photo of one little guy as the model for Dickens. His name is Bailey, and I think he’s precious. Naturally, in my book, Dickens is a huge hit. Everyone who meets him recognizes he must be a Great Pyrenees, and then they wonder how he can be so tiny. Is it any wonder that Dickens has a bit of a complex about his size and is quite sensitive about “little” comments?
And yes, in case you’re wondering, Dickens talks to Leta a la Dr. Dolittle, but she’s the only one who can understand him. He’s a happy-go-lucky little guy who likes everyone he meets, and he adores long walks and car rides and belly rubs—personality traits inspired by my dog Banjo. Banjo is thirteen, and I like to think he’ll live on in the character of Dickens.


To be among the first to know about the release of book three, look for the newsletter sign up box on Kathy’s website. For a limited time, she’s offering a free download of Leta’s Family Recipes—four Greek recipes featured in her books–when you sign up for her author newsletter.

To enter to win an ebook copy of Bells, Tails & Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “bells,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 30, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week!

You can use these links to purchase Kathy’s books on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Kathy Manos Penn is a columnist who added cozies to her writing repertoire after retiring from corporate America. She’s the author of the Dickens & Christie cozy animal mystery series. Find the first two books, Bells, Tails & Murder and Pumpkins, Paws & Murder, on Amazon, and look for book three later this year. Visit her website where you’ll find blogs on the Cotswolds and Dartmouth, the settings for her books, plus a Greek recipe or two! To be among the first to know about the release of book three, look for the newsletter sign up box, also on the website.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. This looks like a good series.

  2. Love dogs and love reading about them. Sounds like a great book.

  3. Dickens look adorable! When we got our white golden retriever Griffin, the vet thought he might be part GP because he had such big paws. We knew that wasn’t possible, but this photo looks just like him.

  4. We have a winner!


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